Libby’s works wonders for the inner man on a ‘Zesa-less’ night

Dusty Miller



I HAVE rarely eaten supper so early, but a call from a neighbour on an unrelated matter revealed Mount Pleasant was again without electricity and had been s

ince before lunch.


Couldn’t face yet another meal of cold meat, cheese or pilchard sandwiches by guttering candlelight, washed down with a glass of milk or a can of lager, I was off for hot sustenance.


Newlands called, but the whole of the east side of Enterprise Road was in total darkness, which left the grossly overpriced food court on the west side, the rather good Chinese/Thai takeaway or — the old standby — Libby’s Restaurant.


It’s a very long time since I’d been there for supper and, before, it’s tended to be a late-ish sort of afterthought, rather than planned early to mid-evening gastronomic sortie.


Indeed the last time I recall going there reasonably early goes back to the days when it was run by the eponymous Libby (nee Malachias), a Greek lady (in every sense of the word) from Malawi and her Irish husband, martial arts expert Dermott McQuillam. And that was for one of their famous Wednesday night prawn specials around eight years ago when four members of the Miller clan could eat crustaceans, rice and chips, salad, great crusty bread and butter to almost bursting point, plus sundry drinks and puddings and have much change out of $500. (I kid thee not!)


I got the impression most if not all other conventional diners were also escaping from Zesa cuts but — a cultural shock — initially three presumably “regulars” in the bar, bellowing at each other as if there were 30 present, then their number grew to five, screaming as if there were 500, shared platters of Greek meze snacks.


A very sophisticated sound system played a non-stop medley of hits of the 60s and 70s, which could sometimes be heard over the row from the bar; a mute TV showed soundless, mindless Yankee soap operas.


Apart from conventional diners eating conventional two or three course dinners, I mentally mused over a couple of strikingly pretty 20-somethings gliding in and ordering simply two plates of samoosas and cane and cokes and a middle aged couple at the next table whose order was for waffles and ice-cream and cappuccinos.


Had they enjoyed soup and steak and chips at home, or in a restaurant across the road, when Zesa plunged them into darkness, meal unfinished? I wondered. Or had they just incredibly sweet teeth?


Libby’s is a Mediterranean-style eatery, slightly favouring the Hellenic cooking of the original owner whose family, I believe, hailed from Cyprus. Xana Colquhoun (nee Botha) has owned it for several years and maintains the successful culinary traditions.


I had done serious damage to a basket of toasted continental bread and good salted butter before a really delightful, piping hot, mushroom soup, fragrantly filled with fungi arrived. I’d omitted to say earlier, the dark, cheerless, Zesa-less, robot-less, traffic chaos-filled night, was also near freezing. The $500 000 deep, nourishing bowlful worked wonders for the inner man.


Other starters include souvlaki at $550 000, deep-fried Haloumi $750 000, dolmades $450 000.


Service was so pleasant and professional in all other aspects that one tends to accept reasonably cheerfully that they’d sold out of chicken breasts ($1, 45 million) at lunchtime and forgive the fact that the second choice half roasted chicken, ordered with lemon and herb sauce, without cooked vegetables, but with an optional salad, arrived piri-piri style (which I can live with), without salad and followed promptly by what looked suspiciously like butternut or pumpkin (take it away!) and French beans.


Salad was smoothly and quickly substituted and, perhaps down to pigging out on the bread earlier, I found the $1,5 million platter a bit of an epicurean challenge.


Salads as a main course range from $850 000 to $1,25 million, grills $1,65 million (pork chops) to $2,5 million (T-bone) with fillet steak $1,85 million. Accompanying sauces (the meat usually doesn’t need them) are $200 000- $350 000. A generous portion of ice-cream and chocolate sauce was $395 000, Pilsener lagers $300 000 each and an excellent cappuccino $200 000. Thus the bottom line for a three course dinner, two drinks and coffee was $3 195 000.


Between chatting and dipping into a book (you can actually read for pleasure at Libby’s without people seeing you as a possible social miscreant) I made the meal last as long as possible. The bar-flies lowered noise level to a steady bellow and it was easier to hear the sort of music one would expect at Billy Fudpucker’s pub over the road on a Thursday night (if they had any power!)


Billy’s and Trax and The Sitar, Mama Mia’s, Blue Banana and Baobab Grill were all still in darkness or operating by flickering candle-light and faltering generators when I left two hours plus after arrival.


I was almost killed by a lunatic in a Pajero or Prado failing to give way to the right at the Churchill/Borrowdale Road “lights” and — Sod’s Law! — seven minutes after clambering into bed by almost empty cigarette lighter (I quit smoking the day they went up from $2,50 to $3,80 a packet: they now cost $250 000!) the lights, fridge, deep-freeze and short-wave radio came back to life.


Recommended family restaurant, booking not usually vital. Libby’s, Mon Repos Centre, Newlands. Closed Sundays. Tel 746471.